Postcard from Beijing... no 15

Illegally blonde Oh Beijing brunettes … how I envy you. I’m a blonde (albeit a heavily assisted one) and in Beijing, life as an artificial blonde is not without its problems.

A year ago in my PB – pre Beijing – life, I was a perfectly passable enhanced blonde with a head of top notch, regularly replenished highlights. Fast forward 12 short months and my hair is the colour of custard.

I hadn’t, of course, deliberately set out to get this hair but achieving the right shade of blonde in Beijing isn't easy. Since arriving in the capital, I have alternatively been too brassy, too white and now, thanks to last week-end's debacle, too yellow.

A quick survey in Sanlitun one recent Saturday afternoon revealed that I am not the only blonde who has hit a highlights wall. I saw many varieties of blondes: the hard blonde (think jet black eyebrows and jet black roots),  a group of 50 year olds who resembled the Duchess of Cornwall with a solid wall of  corn yellow colour, wannabe models with their arctic blonde hair and a gaggle of teenage girls with their identikit three shades of highlights dressed in a uniform of distressed denim  but not one of looked like they had been a natural blonde – the ideal that every artificial blonde save Hugh Hefner’s playboy bunnies is striving for – since kindergarten.

True, I did find one affordable salon (Beauty World in Liangmaqiao) which managed to achieve the perfect shade of age appropriate blonde; a softer shade that's more flattering to the skin tone of a woman out of her twenties. However the highlights started half way down my head and dark roots a la Courtney Love are not a good look.

So how to achieve a glossy Grace Kelly shade of blonde at a hair salon in Beijing, without breaking the bank? One year and nine salons later, I’m sorry to say: you can’t. What you can do is  stop shopping at the Silk Market every week, survive on a super cheap diet of jian bing and baozi  and spend the money you’d save on Calvin Klein copies and eating out at a swanky, upscale salon like the European-esque Eric Paris  (as L’Oreal would say, you’re worth it). Not appealing? The alternative is to stock up on hair colourants the next time you go home (something my friend Laura – a dead ringer for Claudia Schiffer – smugly did) or take a deep breath and face up to the fact that budget blondes in Beijing are fighting a battle that we just can’t win.

Make no mistake the prevailing hair colour hierarchy here is brown whereas blonde, by comparison, is toxic; it’s time consuming, costly and invariably catastrophic. Still rather than getting browned off about it, perhaps we should instead ditch the blonde and take our cue not from Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, but from Britain’s beautiful new princess Kate and her sexy sister Pippa Middleton. With their brunette locks, the Middleton sisters look less try hard, more elegant and – it has to be said – so much better than Beijing’s artificial, overdone blondes (I include myself in this category.) Blonde is over.